Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Awful Curses of Sorcerers and Other Supranatural Entities

I keep starting long-winded game theory posts about superseding mechanics and engaging players as creators. Blargh.

My point was, a player in my regular game recently incurred the wrath of Kheiros the Butterly-Demon, in the form of a curse. This marks the third occasion on which I have adjudicated the results of a woeful enchantment, hex, or the like. Each time, the curse has taken a different form, but in the end, I haven't been happy with any.

First curse I remember assigning took the form of a minus one to hit in combat. The benefit of this approach is that it is simple, hinders the player enough to seek help and not enough to end their playing, and has enough mechanical basis to make it mean something.
The problem is that this in no way improves or enlivens the game, and exists only as a mechanical construct.

Geases by contrast, like alignment changes, force the player to change his character's decision making, and tend to derail anything the party has goin' on right then. They can be fun, I have no doubt, but necessitate a sharp change in the behavior of one player, or the group at large.

Most others I've seen fall into the cosmetic. Now, turning into a bugbear, or sneezing flame can create fun. They give players an in game, but not mechanical problem to overcome, and add detail to a character. At worst however, these get ignored. Players hold their breath for fear of one-way trips to Baator, or halved intelligence scores. When it turns out they "just" weep snails, the impact is lost. Life goes on, and the high Warlock's dying utterance is forgotten.
The following table is going to enter play in the near future. It is my hope that the results will prove baleful, but not debilitating, while remaining entertaining. Your mileage may very, depending on how your player's feel about forced accents. I do run a fairly lighthearted game.

The Grand Chart of Player Curses
1. Player must assume an exaggerated french accent while playing.
2. The irresistible Macarana
3. Steve Erwin
4. Awful Pirate voice
5. Cowboy/Belle Accent
6. Sam Spade voice
7. Christopher Walken
8. In game actions conveyed by written note from now on
9. Player must declare character actions in rhyme.
10. Can not look at character sheet
11. Sing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" to all gathered.
12. Pig latin character declarations.

Does this reduce the game to utter childishness? Probably. But I think the crone with a raven's beak where her tongue should be ought to be treated with just a little bit of awe.

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